A shambling wreck of an album, Big Star
's Third/Sister Lovers
ranks among the most harrowing experiences in pop music; impassioned, erratic, and stark, it's the slow, sinking sound of a band falling apart. Recorded with their label, Stax, poised on the verge of bankruptcy, the album finds Alex Chilton
at the end of his rope, sabotaging his own music long before it can ever reach the wrecking crew of poor distribution, indifferent marketing, and disinterested pop radio. His songs are haphazardly brilliant, a head-on collision between inspiration and frustration, and the album is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, each song smacking of utter defeat and desperation. The result is either one of the most vividly emotional experiences in pop music or a completely wasted opportunity. While the truth probably lies somewhere in between, there's no denying Third
's magnetic pull -- it's like an undertow. Originally appearing under the name 3rd
on PVC Records in 1978, Rykodisc's 1992 release is the initially definitive edition of this unfinished masterpiece, its 19 tracks most closely approximating the original planned running order while restoring the music's intended impact. In addition to unearthing a blistering cover of the Kinks
' "At the End of the Day" and a haunting rendition of Nat King Cole
's "Nature Boy," it also appends the disturbing "Dream Lover," which distills the album's messiest themes into less than four minutes of psychic torment.